Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD THE BIBLE”

 

This morning’s message concerns the attitude that my Lord Jesus Christ had toward the Bible. It is not likely that you have ever heard a sermon from God’s Word about Christ’s attitude toward scripture, though the opinion of the Subject of the Bible about the Bible is of paramount importance. That there is an undeniable link between the written Word of God and the living Word of God goes without saying. Turn to John’s gospel, where you will see that it opens with that profound linkage in plain sight, as we see in John 1.1-3, and John 1.14:

 

1      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2      The same was in the beginning with God.

3      All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 

14     And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

Clearly, then, Jesus Christ, the Lord, is the living Word of God, and the Bible is the written Word of God. However, what concerns us is the relationship of the One to the other. In John 5.39, we see our Lord’s direction to His enemies concerning the scriptures they claimed to love and so frequently boasted of embracing. He said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”

The religious leaders of Christ’s day so postured themselves that they pretended to embrace the scriptures while opposing Him, as if you can love the written Word while opposing the living Word any more than you can love the living Word while ignoring the written Word. His claim, and the observation of anyone who has ever read the Bible with insight and understanding, was that the Bible extols the virtues of Christ, exalts the person of Christ, and commends sinners to the care of Christ. Thus, we know what the Bible says about Jesus Christ; it is the focus of so much of my own preaching. However, what does Jesus Christ say about the Bible?

In order to clarify in your thinking the importance of the Bible, and before we begin to consider what the Savior said about the Bible, allow me to teach some history. Specifically, I want to point something out to you about some very famous confessions of faith. Let me not be bogged down in any discussion of whether or not confessions of faith are useful, since history has shown that they are useful. Neither do I want to argue the wisdom of their formulations, except to point out that it is never wise to allow your enemies to tell everyone what you believe when you could easily tell everyone yourself what you believe. That is something confessions are very good at doing.

That said, there are four confessions that I want to briefly make mention of for the purpose of establishing a point in your thinking. The four confessions are the Westminster Confession of Faith, formulated in that suburb of London in 1646,[1] the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order, formulated at the Savoy Palace in London in 1658,[2] the First London Baptist Confession of 1660, and, lastly, the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.

The Westminster Confession is the statement of faith of the Presbyterians of that time. The Savoy Declaration is the statement of faith of the Congregationalists of that era. The First London Baptist Confession was the confession of Arminian Baptists, Baptists who were persuaded a Christian could lose his salvation. Finally, the Second London Baptist Confession, with Benjamin and Elias Keach being most influential in its formulation, is the confession of the Particular Baptists who, along with the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and the great Puritans of that era, held to the doctrines of grace and recognized the Bible to teach the perseverance of the saints.

Interesting to note is the very first article that appears in each of the four confessions. The Westminster Confession, the Savoy Confession, and the Second London Baptist Confession each begin with a strong assertion about the Bible, while the Arminian Baptists, referred to as General Baptists, began their confession with an assertion about God. Is this an important point to observe? Why is this an important point to observe? My friends, this is an extremely significant point to make, because it goes to the very heart of our conception of Christianity. Do we have a faith that is based upon our own conception of God, which is essentially what the General Baptists were asserting in their confession, or do we have an objective faith, based as it certainly is on a never changing bedrock of truth, the Word of God? That is why the first article deals with the Bible in the Westminster, the Savoy, and the Second London Baptist confessions.

Though it is the fate of every movement within Christianity to ebb, flow as God sends revival, and as declension sets in, the demise of the General Baptists was very rapid owing, in my opinion, to their subjective approach to the Christian faith. That is, in their minds, in their thinking, in their system of belief, they started with God, or at least they thought they did. Those who embraced the Westminster, the Savoy, and the Second London Baptist Confession, approached their Christianity by first asserting their confidence in God’s Word, the Bible.

Where do you start in your thinking? Do you start with God, or do you start with the Bible? If you start with God, or if you think you are starting with God, you may find yourself embracing others who think they are starting with God, but find out later that their conception of God is vastly different from your own. For example: When Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Scientists refer to God they are referring to an impersonal source of power they have conceived apart from any reliance upon the Bible. When a muslim refers to Allah, the Arabic word for God, he does not have in his thinking a being that bears any resemblance to the God referred to in the Bible.

Thus, though they did not agree about everything, and were not automatically true to scripture in every aspect of the confessions they formulated, the writers of the Westminster, the Savoy, and the Second London Baptist confessions, were absolutely right in making the Bible their starting point. It should be your starting point, as well. Therefore, to help you in making the Bible, the Word of God, your starting point for all matters pertaining to faith and practice, by which I refer to your conception of the Christian faith in all its respects and how you relate to, worship, and serve the one true and living God, let me point out to you, in the Biblical record, the Lord Jesus Christ’s attitude toward the Bible. My prayer is that His attitude toward God’s Word will be adopted by you to be your own attitude toward scripture.

   Please close your Bible at this time and listen carefully, so the impact of what I share with you will have full effect.

 

First, THE LORD JESUS ACCEPTED THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE

 

Most of you are aware that shortly after His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ was driven into the Judean wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil during a forty day fast, as a demonstration of His deity and His qualifications to be our Savior. However, what we benefit from being reminded of was the manner by which the Lord Jesus Christ did battle with Satan during those temptations. I read Matthew 4.4, 7, and 10:

 

4      But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

 

7      Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

 

10     Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

 

Careful consideration of Christ’s conflict with Satan reveals that the devil’s strategy was to attempt to persuade the Lord Jesus Christ to distrust God and to dislodge Him from obedience to God’s revealed will in scripture. How did my Lord Jesus respond? By quoting passages of scripture, particularly those that attest to the divine authority of God’s Word.

Thus, the Bible is authoritative, and its authority to speak on matters of faith and practice is final.

 

Next, THE LORD JESUS ACCEPTED THE IMPERISHABILITY OF THE BIBLE

 

In His sermon on the mount, which spans Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, beginning with the Beatitudes, and continuing on through His instructions for praying with His model prayer, and ending with His parable about building a house on the sand, His large audience gathered as much out of curiosity as for any other reason.

They found His teachings strange, and His manner authoritative. No doubt, a number in attendance thought His teachings might be contrary to the Hebrew scriptures. To put that notion to rest once and for all, He uttered a clear and unequivocal statement about the Bible near the beginning of His sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5.17-18:

 

17     Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18     For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

 

Whatever His audience on that hillside near Capernaum overlooking the Sea of Galilee might have thought about Him and about the Bible, He set forth His position very clearly. As far as He was concerned, the Bible is imperishable. Regardless of what the Bible deniers maintain, God’s Word cannot be destroyed.

 

Third, JESUS ACCEPTED THE DIVINE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE

 

In Matthew 22.41-46, the Lord Jesus Christ is challenged by His enemies just days before His crucifixion. Listen, as I read. Consider the implications of what He says here as it applies to the Bible:

 

41     While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

42     Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

43     He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,

44     The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?

45     If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

46     And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

 

The psalmist, David, who lived a thousand years before the time of Christ on earth, referred to his descendant, this same Jesus, as his Lord. In other words, David acknowledged his promised descendant to be his superior. What is significant to our concern is that Jesus maintained that David “in spirit” called Him Lord.

Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ was showing that David had spoken by inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he uttered those words in the Bible. He was illustrating what Paul wrote in Second Timothy 3.16, when he wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” and what Peter wrote in Second Peter 1.21, when he wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

My friends, David was moved by the Spirit of God to write the words of Psalm 110.1, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Therefore, for the Lord Jesus Christ to refer to David’s psalm in that way was to express His recognition that the Bible is inspired, that the Holy Ghost really did move holy men of God to give us His Word.

 

Fourth, HE ACCEPTED THE UNBREAKABILITY OF THE BIBLE

 

To show this, let us once again consider a passage that records an encounter the Lord Jesus Christ had in Jerusalem about 16 months before His crucifixion. I read John 10.22-38:

 

22     And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.

23     And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.

24     Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

25     Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

26     But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

27     My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28     And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29     My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30     I and my Father are one.

31     Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

32     Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

33     The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

34     Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

35     If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

36     Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

37     If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

38     But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

 

You know that I always read more scripture than I need to establish my point. However, I am a real stickler for the importance of context, and I wanted to make sure you got a feel for the context in which Christ’s assertion about scripture is found. At the end of John 10.35, the Lord Jesus Christ declares, “the scripture cannot be broken.”

This brings to mind the words of Jeremiah 23.29, where Jehovah asks, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” The Bible, rather than being breakable, is like a hammer that does the breaking.

 

Fifth, HE ACCEPTED THE SUPREMACY OF THE BIBLE

 

It is one thing to say you highly esteem the Bible, but it is quite another to submit to it. It is one thing to ascribe authority to the Bible, while it is another thing to bow to its authority. The scribes and Pharisees were guilty of playing games with scriptural truth, and thereby being guilty on both counts.

I read Matthew 15.3-6:

 

3      But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

4      For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

5      But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;

6      And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

 

These were experts at manipulating the facts of the Bible in order to distort the principles to their favor. They claimed to highly esteem the Bible and proclaimed their undying devotion to God’s truth. However, to avoid the responsibility assigned to them by the fifth commandment to honor their fathers and mothers, they would declare something to be “corban,” or a gift devoted to God, thereby relieving them of the responsibility of using that item to be a blessing to their impoverished and feeble parents.[3]

Thus, what you have are two conflicting principles: On one hand, you have the scriptural command to honor your father and your mother. However, in conflict with that is the declaration that something you own is to be exclusively used for God under penalty of being cursed. Which authority is supreme, the Bible or your vow? Clearly, according to the Lord Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible is supreme.

If the Lord Jesus Christ asserted the supreme authority of the Bible, it is a foolish man who denies the authority of the Bible, either by word or by deed.

 

Sixth, HE ACCEPTED THE INERRANCY OF THE BIBLE

 

I want to read two verses to you, Matthew 22.29, and John 17.17:

 

29     Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

 

17     Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

 

The Matthew 22.29 verse is a statement uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ to His enemies, the Sadducees. The Law of Moses called for the widow of a man who died without an heir to marry a surviving brother of the man, in order to preserve the family inheritance. The Sadducees, denying the inerrancy of the Bible, concocted a scenario of a woman marrying, in turn, seven brothers who each died without fathering a child by her, and then wondering whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Their mistake was twofold, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

John 17.17, on the other hand, is part of our Lord Jesus Christ’s high priestly intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. In that brief statement to His heavenly Father the Lord Jesus Christ twice asserts that the Bible is truth.

Thus, in these two verses, the Lord Jesus Christ twice accepts the inerrancy of the Bible, by pointing out the ignorance of the Sadducees for denying as false what the Bible taught as true (the resurrection, as well as God’s capacity for doing the impossible), and by remarking that God’s Word is true (because, if it is true it must be free from error).

 

Seventh, THE LORD JESUS ACCEPTED THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE BIBLE

 

Let me read a comment made by the Savior in connection with Jonah, and then another comment in connection with Noah and the Flood, two figures who lived in the distant past. I read from Matthew 12.40 and Matthew 24.37-39:

 

40     For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

 

37     But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38     For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39     And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 

In Matthew 12.40, the Lord Jesus Christ clearly stated, “Jonas was three days and three nights in the whales belly.” He accepted the historicity of Jonas, and the details recorded in the Bible about his fantastic, and miraculous, experience. His own resurrection would follow the pattern of events established by Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the whale.

In Matthew 24.37-39, the Lord Jesus Christ just as clearly accepted as factual, true, and historically reliable, the Biblical account of both Noah and the Flood, making the point that His own second coming to earth would be patterned after events leading up to the Flood.

Can it be any clearer than this? No one can claim intellectual honesty who denies that Jesus Christ had full confidence in the historical reliability of the Bible.

 

Finally, HE ACCEPTED THE SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE

 

Let me make it very clear that the Bible is not a science text. It usually speaks to observable events from the perspective of perceived reality rather than by using scientific language. For example: The sun rises and sets in the Bible, while we know that astronomically, the earth spins on its axis, giving the sun the appearance of rising in the morning and setting in the evening.

That said, the Lord Jesus Christ attested to the accuracy of the Bible with respect to scientific truths, even if those truths are reported from the perspective of a nonscientist's observations. To state the matter succinctly, what the Bible says is true, if not stated in technical terms. With that in mind, let me read Matthew 19.3-6:

 

3      The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4      And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5      And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6      Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

 

What is the point of this passage? The Lord Jesus Christ accepted as true the Biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve. Thus, even though the Bible does not present scientific truth to its readers using technical jargon, the statements of the Bible that bear on science are always true. God made Adam and Eve at the beginning; they did not evolve from lower forms.

 

Not a rousing sermon.

Not an emotionally uplifting sermon.

However, I think you should receive this message as an important sermon from God’s Word about God’s Word. Specifically, it is a sermon that surveys and reviews what the Lord Jesus Christ’s attitude was concerning the Bible.

He accepted the authority of the Bible, the imperishability of the Bible, the inspiration of the Bible, the unbreakability of the Bible, the supremacy of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Bible, the historical reliability of the Bible, and the scientific accuracy of the Bible.

Let me close with this quote, lifted from This Day In Baptist History, from a message Dr. A. T. Pierson delivered at a conference centered on the inspiration of God’s Word in Philadelphia in 1887. Dr. Pierson’s message climaxed the conference, and it was titled, “The Organic Unity of the Bible” and was delivered on November 18th of that year:

 

We find the Old Testament is patent in the New; the New latent in the Old. In such a book, then, it is not likely that there would be unity; for all the conditions were unfavorable, all the circumstances disadvantageous to a harmonious moral testimony and teaching. Here are some sixty or more separate documents, written by some forty different hands, among different and sometimes hostile peoples, with marked diversities of literary style, and by men of all grades of culture and mental capacity, from Moses to Malachi; and when we look into these productions, there is even in them great unlikeness, both in matter and manner of statement; and yet they all constitute one volume.

Imagine another book, compiled by as many authors, scattered over as many centuries! Herodotus, in the fifth century before Christ, contributes an historic fragment on the origin of all things; a century later, Aristotle adds a book on moral philosophy; two centuries pass, and Cicero adds a work on law and government; still another hundred years, and Virgil furnishes a grand poem on ethics. In the next century, Plutarch supplies some biographical sketches; and nearly two hundred years after, Origen adds essays on religious creeds and conduct; a century and a half later, Augustine writes a treatise on theology and Chrysostom a book of sermons; then seven centuries pass away, and Abelard completes the compilation by a magnificent series of essays on rhetoric and scholastic philosophy. And, between these extremes, which, like the Bible, span fifteen centuries, all along from Herodotus to Abelard, are thirty other contributors, whose works enter into the final results, men of different nations, periods, habits, languages, and education. Under the best conditions, how much real unity could be expected, even if each successive contributor had read all that preceded his own fragment? Yet here all are entirely at agreement. There is diversity in unity, and unity in diversity. It is e pluribus unum. If, at first sight, there be apparent divergence, a further search shows real harmony. As in a stereoscope, the two pictures sometimes appear as distinct, and will not come together, but, as we continue to look, and as the eye rests on some particular point, one view is seen; so in the Word of God. The more we study it, the more do its unity and harmony appear. Even the Law and the Gospels are not in conflict. They stand, like the cherubim, facing different ways, but their faces are toward each other. And the four gospels, like the cherubic creatures in Ezekiel’s vision, facing in four different directions, move in one. All the criticism of more than three thousand years has failed to point out one important or irreconcilable contradiction in the testimony and teachings of those who are farthest separated. There is no collision, yet there could be no collusion!

How can this be accounted for? There is no answer which can be accounted for? There is no answer which can be given unless you admit the supernatural element. If God actually superintended the production of this book, so that all who contributed to it were guided by Him, then its unity is the unity of a Divine plan and its harmony the harmony of a supreme intelligence and will.[4]



[2] Historic Documents of Congregationalism, (Millers Falls, MA: Puritan Press, 2005), page 2.

[3] See comment on Matthew 15.5 in John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)

[4] Arthur T. Pierson, Editor, The Inspired Word, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1888), pages 339-341.

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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org